From Hook to Book

A Novel Synopsis

I’ve learned a lot about writing novel synopses over the past fortnight, workshopping my long length version with my two writing groups and uni class. Leading to some serious hair tearing, and a bad case of Confusius Maximus. Plus my eyeballs have started a weird twitching.

Here are some hot tips on what I’ve learned and/or not learned.

  • Keep the voice and tone of your synopsis true to your novel
  • Don’t use the voice of your novel – it’s you as an author presenting the synopsis
  • Only include the plot points, not themes
  • State the themes and turning points
  • Include subplots
  • Omit subplots
  • Use the synopsis to sell your project
  • Don’t use the synopsis to sell your project, that’s what your cover letter is for
  • Tell the ending
  • Don’t tell the ending
  • Keep it under a page
  • Write two pages, ½ page, 4 para’s etc, etc, etc.

Ah, eye twitch explained!

Seriously: I absolutely agree on the need for several versions of synopsis from the one liner, elevator pitch, one paragraph, one page.

The jury is out on the right and wrong of some of the rest. A lot seems to come down to publisher/editor/reader preference or who taught you to write a synopsis. With multiple styles and ways of writing a synopsis, I accept I’m never likely to get it perfect to every reader’s understanding of the “right” way.

Whichever way a synopsis is written, I think the bottom line and most valuable thing I’ve learned is that it needs to be more than an invitation to buy. You want it to create a need to ‘buy’, read, want to know more.

Hook and Reel

Hook and reel, People.

So it’s back to the drawing board for me, but I do think I have a much clearer idea of the direction I need to head in.

Love to know, do you love writing synopses? Or is it tear out your hair time? Do you have any great tips? Leave a comment if you like.


(Of course, this is all meant very tongue-in-cheek and in no way intended as insulting to my kind and generous critiquers.)



“Book worm Clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on


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6 thoughts on “A Novel Synopsis

  1. I would also like to say simply, that a synopsis needs to entice.
    Good reading Chris and I can feel your frustration floating over the ciber waves.

    • Hi Corinne

      Entice, a lovely description.

      Yes, frustration was in there too, mixed in with bemusement, confusion and a lot of sighing. But the great thing is I’ve learned a lot more alongside of the pain. 🙂


      • OOH Chris- I don’t think I’m good at this synopsis thing- never having written such a big novel- but believe it really should hook the reader/publisher as much as possible and make them crave the manuscript!

      • Hi Lorraine

        Excellent advice. Here’s hoping that’s the end result. I want the publisher to be salivating over it. Figuratively, of course. 🙂


  2. Hi Chris,
    I agree there’s so many conflicting suggestions on how to write a synopsis.
    Glad you can see the funny side.
    I agree with Corrine and Lorraine, that a synopsis should entice an editor to request your manuscript. That’s exactly what you want! Good luck :))

    • Hi Karen

      Gotta laugh, or…

      In the end, I think it will be about which version sings, and being prepared to rewrite and change versions constantly for different app’s.

      The thing is, I want the publisher to more than request my manuscript; I want them intrigued and anticipating its arrival.


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